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My Garden Diary

September and October 2014

Copyright © 2014 by David E. Ross

Many years ago, when I first started my Web site, I created an online diary of my gardening activities and observations. However, with work and the commute from Hell, I was often so tired I had to choose between maintaining my garden and maintaining my diary. Sometimes, I did neither. In 1998, I stopped my diary and removed the pages from my Web site.

Now I am retired. I am well-rested and have plenty of time to both garden and maintain a diary. This diary is primarily for my own benefit, so that I can look back upon what I did and when. But I thought others might also be interested, so here it is.

Also see What's Blooming in My Garden Now?


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Entries are in reverse order (latest at the top). Daily, I might stoop to pull a weed or use a hose to water some potted plants; however, I don't consider those significant gardening activities. Thus, you will not see daily entries. Also, I might accumulate a few entries before updating this page on the Web.

When plants have well-known common names, their scientific names are given only the first time they appear on this page (entry closest to the bottom). There, the common name is in bold or appears as a link to another Web page.

Dates refer to other entries in the same year as the entry in which they appear unless a different year is given. However, they may refer to entries on prior pages.

This diary has been visited times since I started it.

Date and Weather Observations and Activities
15 October

Cloudy, gray, and cool

Temp: 56-71
Humidity: 57%
Wind: 1-16

With cool weather forecast for the next few days, I planted the lavender cuttings (12 Oct). The cutting that I planted in the circular bed in back had a small but good root ball, and I expect it to survive. The cutting that I planted in the large flower pot in front, however, had only minimal roots. I think I will have to put up more cuttings because I expect it will fail.

Rain —
This season: 0.00
Days since last: 59

12 October

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 61-87
Humidity: 35%
Wind: 1-11

Rain —
This season: 0.00
Days since last: 56

Cleopatra is down for the winter. She normally hibernates from mid-October to mid-April. My wife and I checked her this noon, and Cleo was sleeping in a corner of her house. That means the thrift (Armeria meritima) and hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) in back are safe from her nibbling for another six months.

Dug out the stump of the lavender that I recently (9 Oct) cut down. This was not easy. It had developed a trunk about 8 inches around and roots commensurate with that. For replacing the plant with a rooted cutting, I prepared the resulting hole by stirring compost and bone meal into the remaining soil. I then topped it with gypsum to improve the drainage since lavender and most of its salvia relatives (except mints) prefer excellent drainage. I won't plant a cutting in that location yet. The weather remains too warm, and the cutting's roots are not yet sufficiently developed.

Also put some gypsum around a Camellia sasanqua in the rose bed. This camellia was not doing well, which is usually a symptom of poor drainage.

I fear the miniature palm in the greenhouse window is either dying or already dead.

9 October

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 60-84
Humidity: 44%
Wind: 2-12

Rain —
This season: 0.00
Days since last: 53

It's a new rain year, so the accumulative amount of rain "This season" is reset to zero. In the meantime, today ended a seven-day heat wave when temperatures exceeded 90°F with two days reaching or exceeding 100°F. A new heat wave might begin in two days.

Fed the dwarf citrus with commercial citrus fertilizer plus a pinch of zinc sulfate for each plant. This will be the last feeding for the citrus this year. I should resume when new growth starts in the spring. Normally, citrus in the ground is not fed as often. With three of the four citrus in large pots and the fourth in a raised bed, however, nutrients quickly leach away in the fast-draining soil mix I used for them. So they require frequent but light feedings.

Also fed the gardenia and tea tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) the same as for the citrus but a bit heavier. These too will not be fed again until spring.

While feeding the tea tree, I notice a major limb had died. After cutting it away, I then trimmed some weeping branches and branches that were interfering with the paths surrounding the teardrop bed.

One of the lavender bushes in the circular bed was almost dead. As I cut it down to a stump, I did notice a few new shoots. However, it had grown far too large and woody and should have been replaced a year ago. Fortunately for my wallet, cuttings root quite quickly. I still have to dig out the stump and then plant one of the rooted lavender cuttings that I already have (21 Sep).

Removed much dead growth from the mass of fortnight lilies (Dietes iridiodes, also known as peacock iris) that is next to the lilies of the Nile (Agapanthus orientalis) between the lawn and main patio. For this I had to wear leather gloves. While the green leaves are easily handled, I cut a finger badly on the edge of a dried leaf while trying to pull out dead growth with my bare hands.

28 September

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 57-76
Humidity: 42%
Wind: 3-11

Rain —
This season: 5.90
Days since last: 56

Raked leaves in front. Perhaps it's a result of the drought, but it seems that the valley white oak (Quercus lobata) in front is dropping its leaves early this year.

Fed the roses in back with a commercial rose food that also contains a systemic insecticide. I used up all of the fertilizer and will have to buy more for the roses in front. (Added 29 September: I bought more of the same rose fertilizer and used it in front and on the potted miniature 'Salmon Ovation' rose in back.) The last feeding this year will be near the end of October. Without more fertilizer, the roses will begin to rest before I prune them in late December and early January.

Tied down some new very long canes of the climbing 'Peace' rose in back.

Planted an artichoke (Cynara scoymus) in the back lawn, replacing one that got trampled to death by the tree service crew when I had to have The Tree repaired (11 May). Not only will it supply us with delicious edible buds, but it will also be a nice accent.

Checked the lavendar cuttings again (21 Sep). While there are roots, the roots are not sufficiently developed yet to put the plants into the ground.

Finished trimming the edges of the paths in back.

21 September

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 58-83
Humidity: 42%
Wind: 1-9

Rain —
This season: 5.90
Days since last: 49

Responding to the drought in the same manner as many other California water agencies, the Truifo Sanitation District (which owns the Oak Park Water Service) has adopted a micro-management policy that dictates when and how we use water rather than setting an overall limit on how much water we use. I spent time this morning reprogramming my irrigation clock. Instead of watering every third day, it will run my sprinklers on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. In a three-week period, this will mean irrigating nine times instead of the seven times I had been doing.

Trimmed the edge of the path in back along the rose bed opposite the circular bed and along the small brick patio. Then I trimmed the edge of the path along the lawn opposite the circular bed. The edge of the circular bed itself does not require the same kind of trimming; but occasionally, I have to prune the 'Goodwin Creek' lavender bushes (Lavandula lanata × dentata) when they grow out over the path.

Also trimmed the star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) where it was growing out over the connection between the large concrete patio and the walk on the side of the house.

The 'Goodwin Creek Grey' lavender cuttings seem to have rooted. I'm not sure about the sage; I know that one sage cutting is dead.

18 September

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 64-85
Humidity: 41%
Wind: 2-17

Rain —
This season: 5.90
Week: 0.03
Days since last: 46

Although there has been some rain and even flash floods in southern California, it all missed my community of Oak Park. In the meantime, we had a serious heat wave with six consecutive days of temperatures exceeding 95°F (exceeding 100°F on four of those days).

Fed the dwarf citrus and gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides 'Veitchii') with ammounium, iron, and zinc sulfates. I will feed again in about three weeks; that will be the last feeding of the year. Withholding fertilizer after then will inhibit new growth, which is very sensitive to the occasional frosts we get in winter.

Aerated part of the front lawn, using the same tool that I used in back (1 Sep).

3 September

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 61-88
Humidity: 37%
Wind: 1-12

Rain —
This season: 5.90
Days since last: 31

The pink clover (Persicaria capitata) that forms my lawn in front is doing poorly. Unlike the red fescue (Festuca rubra) in my back lawn, this cannot be the result of foot traffic since there has been none. I suspect that our weather — extreme heat and drought — are responsible. Today, I broadcast some gypsum on the worst parts of the lawn. Next week, I might aerate those areas. The goal is to ensure water actually penetrates the soil when the sprinklers are running.

Trimmed along the path in back between the lawn and the rose bed. This is going much faster than the trimming I did last spring.

1 September

Clear, sunny, and hot

Temp: 64-94
Humidity: 36%
Wind: 1-12

Rain —
This season: 5.90
Days since last: 29

Because of the drought, we are constantly exhorted to cut our use of water. In the past 12 months, we have used 1% less than during the prior 12 months. However, that reduced amount cost us 4% more than during the year earlier period. Since we were already trying to conserve water for several years, the Oak Park Water Service had best not start rationing based on our prior use. That would effectively penalize those who always conserved while rewarding those who wasted water.

Aerated the back lawn where it appears to be dying (20 Aug). I used a device that punches holes in the soil and removes plugs of soil. After next Sunday — after the sprinklers run twice more — I will lightly feed that area.

Started trimming the edges of the paths in the back yard. I completed the entire area between the lawn and the east bed.

Weather data are from the Cheeseboro (CHE) weather station, about 2 miles ENE of my house.

The high temperature (°F) is daytime for the indicated date; the low temperature (°F) is for the previous night.

The relative humidity is at noon. (In my garden, it is likely higher than reported, a result of regular irrigation.)

Wind speeds (mph) are average (not peak) low and high, midnight to midnight (subject to later correction for diary entries posted before the end of the day). I also indicate peak wind gusts parenthetically when they are significantly high.

Rain is in inches. Season is the cumulative amount of rainfall from 1 October until 30 September of the following year. Week is the cumulative amount of measurable rainfall from noon seven days ago until noon of the indicated date. If no rain fell in that period, Days since last is reported.

Characterization of the weather (e.g., Clear, sunny, and warm) is purely subjective; for example, "warm" might occur with higher temperatures than "hot" if the former occurs with lower humidity and more breezes than the latter. Also, a day that would normally be characterized as "mild" might instead be "warm" if the immediately previous days were quite cold. Finally, such characterization reflects when I was actually outside and gardening and ignores changes that occur while I am inside.

The signature line I use when writing messages about my garden includes the following:

Climate: California Mediterranean
Sunset Zone: 21 -- interior Santa Monica Mountains with some ocean influence (USDA 10a, very close to Sunset Zone 19)
See also The Climate.
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